Churches & Denominations with Unsafe Official Divorce Policies for Abused Spouses

If you belong to one of these denominations or attend one of their churches, please contact them.  Even if your own pastor condones divorce for abuse, please write, call, or email denomination leaders and ask that they change their official divorce policy.

If even one pastor or church leader follows these policies, they are risking vulnerable people's lives and sanity. See below for ideas of what to write. Here is a website that has links to official denomination websites, so you can contact the leadership.

 

Denominations that don't condone divorce for physical violence (per their own written policies):

 

—Evangelical Covenant Church  (If you are an ECC member or attendee, ask to have the policy changed: John Wenrich is the president: https://covchurch.org/who-we-are/help/contact-us/)

—Southern Baptist Convention

—Evangelical Free Church

—Calvary Chapel

—Protestant Reformed Churches

—Orthodox Presbyterian Church

—Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

—Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

—Anglican Church of North America

—Christian & Missionary Alliance

—Church of God in Christ

—United Church of God

 

(For a side-by-side comparison chart of 40 denominations and official policies—from their own websites—on divorce, go to this page, then download this 8-page PDF. It includes links to each claim.)

 

 

 

Churches that don't condone divorce for physical violence unless leaders say it's "life-threatening." (How do they know in advance?)

 

Presbyterian Church in America (PCA): only if abused by an unbeliever or a murder threat by an unbeliever.

Evangelical Presbyterian Church: ongoing violence or murder attempt
         [Note: this implies it must be a failed murder attempt, not merely a verbal threat.]

 

 

Denominations that have no divorce policy online, but analysis suggests they prohibit all or most divorce

 

American Baptist Association (not ABCUSA)

Apostolic Lutheran Church of America

Primitive Baptists

Assoc. of Reformed Baptist Churches in America (ARBCA)

Salvation Army (officers)

National Center for Family-Integrated Churches

 

This is why conservative Christian marital abuse victims (wives and husbands) who need a life-saving divorce are streaming out of our churches and taking the children with them. See the graph and the link to the Christianity Today article documenting this. http://www.lifesavingdivorce.com/1million

 

Christian Organizations

—Focus on the Family doesn't officially condone divorce for physical abuse either Here's their official policy and changes over the recent years: http://lifesavingdivorce.com/fotfdivorce  

 

 

How Can You Help? What to Write

If you belong to one of these denominations or attend one of their churches, please contact them.  Even if your own pastor condones divorce for abuse, please write, call, or email denomination leaders and ask that they change their official divorce policy.

If even one pastor or church leader follows these policies, they are risking vulnerable people's lives. See below for ideas of what to write. Here is a website that has links to official denomination websites, so you can contact the leadership.

I know people will simply say that their pastor doesn't follow the policy, so there's no problem. That's not the point.

These divorce policies are unsafe. These divorce policies kill people. Abused spouses are driven to despair, depression, suicide. They are left vulnerable to more domestic violence, and they are more likely to be homicide victims.  Divorce saves lives (as the graphic below, from Harvard's Quarterly Journal of Economics, demonstrates.)

Several of these divorce policies suggest that God wants you to stay married even if there is physical violence. You can never divorce, even though the Bible commands an abusive/neglectful husband to divorce his wife and let her go. www.lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-in-bible

These no-divorce-for-abuse policies have a chilling effect. When the official website takes a hard line, it is used to determine which pastors and members align with the denomination and which do not. It is a litmus test. Even good caring pastors feel pressure to tell their abused church members to stay.

Here's an analogy: What if your company had a handbook stating the policies, and your supervisor said, "Ah, you can just ignore that rule." What do you as an employee do? You are being given a no-win choice. If the policy is not a good one, it's better if the company revises its handbook, rather than putting managers and employees in a situation where they are non-compliant and fear losing their job, just for doing the right thing.

Thousands of Christian divorcees, perhaps a million, have already stopped attending these conservative Christian churches. And it's important that these denominations face the truth: that THEY have presented a false choice for abuse victims. Some abused wives have been excommunicated for divorcing abusive husbands. Here's a link to several stories: www.lifesavingdivorce.com/excommunication

See the link below for a graph showing the attendance gap in conservative churches, as reported by Christianity Today. Conservative Christian divorcees are not attending church as much as demographers expected they would. Other churches do better with divorcees. Follow this link to an article (and graph) that appeared in February 2020 in Christianity Today discussing the problem. www.lifesavingdivorce.com/1million

Contact your denominational leadership and send a letter or email. Tell your story, or talk about other people's stories. Here are some stories of women and men who stayed with their abuser because their church leadership pressured them to stay www.lifesavingdivorce.com/stay  Here are 50 comments from marital abuse survivors who went to church leadership for pastoral care. They tell about their conversations with pastors and church leaders, some of whom demonstrated good wise discernment, and some showed their hardheartedness and indifference to the suffering of others: www.lifesavingdivorce.com/good-vs-bad.  You can also show the biblical support of divorce for abuse: www.lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-in-bible

For those who have loving pastors who defy denominational divorce policy, congratulations! There are many courageous pastors who secretly ignore the official divorce policy of the denomination and, like the courageous Hebrew midwives from the Bible, save lives. Here's a question: Has your pastor stated his personal view on the local church's website? If not, that shows the power of official divorce policies to silence pastors. It has a chilling effect.

 

What if my denomination has some good articles about domestic violence and condemns marital abuse?
That’s great. I’m thrilled that your denomination is addressing physical and emotional abuse. I'm glad they are condemning it. But that isn't the same as changing their official policy about divorce-for-abuse. If they have now changed their policy about divorce and abuse, then they need to post it publicly and clearly on their official website and remove their old policy. Let me know what response you receive. www.lifesavingdivorce.com/contact.

 

Divorce Saves Lives. When “no fault” divorce laws started passing one state at a time, starting with Governor Ronald Reagan in California in 1969, researchers wanted to see the effect. In states that passed unilateral no-fault divorce, they observed the suicide rate for wives drop 8-16%. The domestic violence rate by and against both men and women dropped 30%.  The homicide rate of women murdered by an intimate dropped 10%.   Stevenson and Wolfers, “Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics (Feb. 2006): 267, 286.

Open Arms for Christian Marital Abuse Victims

Marital abuse victims who’ve been disciplined or excommunicated, or who have left their church out of fear of gossip and judgment, and wish to tell their story are also welcome to contact us. We have an understanding and accepting online community of Christians (and other people of faith) who’ve needed life-saving divorces. Reach out for an invitation.  www.lifesavingdivorce.com/contact  

 

 

For Corrections

(For a side-by-side comparison chart of 40 denominations and official divorce policies*—from their own websites, go to this page, then download this 8-page PDF. It includes links to each claim.)

Churches frequently change policies. If you have an update or find an error in this chart, please report it with as much detail as possible, including exact quotes, page numbers, URLs, and specifics to www.lifesavingdivorce.com/contact  Only publicly available divorce policy information from official denominational websites will be used.

 

What constitutes a "policy"?

When I say “written policies,” I mean “statements,” “affirmations,” “guidelines,” “codes,” "values," or whatever else a normal person, making a good faith effort to determine the church’s stance would readily find in a 5-minute best-effort search.  For the purposes of the comparison chart, if the denomination explicitly condones or prohibits at least one reason for divorce—but not abuse—it is listed as having an unsafe divorce policy. 

 

How Do I Respond to Upset Denominational Leaders?

 

If they believe I've made a mistake, I check it and if warranted, I correct it. If not, here's is my typical response.

[I usually start by thanking the person who contacted me. It takes courage to do so and it shows that they care about their denomination's reputation. I also show appreciation for the steps they've taken to educate their pastors and lay leaders on the topic of marital abuse. But if they haven't changed their official DIVORCE policy, then I continue with the content below.]

 

Dear _______,

 

My chart of denominations and their view of divorce (for adultery, physical violence, emotional abuse, and abandonment) is completely based on the official written divorce policy on each denomination’s official website. http://www.lifesavingdivorce.com/comparison

 

If the denomination doesn’t explicitly condone divorce (online and publicly) for domestic violence (physical abuse AND emotional abuse), it is noted on the comparison chart along with 40 other denominations.

 

The exegetical basis I take is simply the Scriptures. When a denomination chooses to only consider a few Bible verses, rather than all Bible passages on divorce, it is a problem: the church’s divorce policy is labeled UNSAFE for abuse victims. For example, although well-trained in the Scriptures, few of your pastors know that divorce is commanded three times in Scripture and only prohibited once. Looking at these particular commands tells us something about the heart of God on this matter.  www.lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-in-bible

.

And even worldly people know that forcing domestic violence victims to stay in violent marriages is unethical and immoral—or face the wrath of God, is immoral.  Refusing to let abuse victims go and get to safety through the highest legal means (divorce), makes us look bad.

.

It makes our faith look bad. It makes our God look bad. If we believe in a pro-life God, and in Jesus Christ who came to give life abundantly and to free people from bondage to sin, then we are caught in cognitive dissonance. We cannot please two masters: We have a choice, to make divorce a culture-war issue OR to allow divorce for life-saving reasons, which is in line with God's heart to protect the vulnerable.

 

It's hypocritical that so many churches have speakers and conferences to combat human trafficking. They learn how a powerful attractive person tricks a vulnerable person into trusting them, then traps and uses them. Churches understand that. But they don’t always see the seduction, coercion, and manipulation in their own congregation. In fact they side with the abuser by shutting the door to divorce.

.

The world is watching in bewilderment as we free slaves in other countries, but not in the U.S. If there's a marriage certificate, the evil magically disappears. Many churches spin on a dime, shrug, and blame the victim: “Well, she signed it. She deserves it.” They are selectively blind. But God is not mocked.

.

Here are the Bible passages on divorce for abuse: www.lifessavingdivorce.com/abuse-in-bible

.

If you want to hear the first-person stories from devout Christian wives (and husbands) about their experiences with good and bad pastoral counselors in the denomination’s churches and other similar ones, read here: www.lifesavingdivorce.com/good-vs-bad

 

Why does an official public policy on divorce matter to abuse victims (and to the pastors who care about abuse victims)?

.

Go here: www.lifesavingdivorce.com/unsafe SCROLL to the bottom section “How Can You Help? What Do You Write?” and “What if my denomination has some good articles about domestic violence and condemns abuse, but still doesn’t condone divorce for abuse?”

.

In short, a denomination that doesn't have a clear official divorce policy for abuse (or if they have a divorce policy that condones one or more reasons for divorce, but abuse is not among them), and merely leaves it up to individual pastors/congregations to decide their own, it...

    • Has a chilling effect on the pastors who do condone divorce (they know the official divorce policy and know they are deviating from it, even though the denomination gives some leeway for local congregations), and
    • Empowers the pastors, staff, and lay leaders who don’t condone divorce for abuse to use the divorce policy to exact spiritual pressure (and in the extreme, even spiritual discipline or excommunication) on abuse victims.

 

This leads to abuse victims being betrayed twice: by their spouse, and now by church leadership, because that’s what the denomination’s divorce policy tacitly allows. This turns victims and their children from the church. They learn this church isn’t a safe place. This is why nearly 6 in 10 committed Christians who divorce, switch churches, according to LifeWay Research.

 

Does this happen? Yes. Read the first-person stories here: www.lifesavingdivorce.com/good-vs-bad

 

If you want to know the actual figures (Harvard) of how many abuse victims are saved by divorce from suicide, violence, and homicide, go here: http://lifesavingdivorce.com/divorcesaveslives/

 

When “no fault” divorce laws started passing one state at a time, starting with Governor Ronald Reagan in California in 1969, researchers wanted to see the effect. In states that passed unilateral no-fault divorce, they observed the suicide rate for wives drop 8-16%. The domestic violence rate by and against both men and women dropped 30%. The homicide rate of women murdered by an intimate dropped 10%.

—Stevenson and Wolfers, “Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress,” Harvard's Quarterly Journal of Economics (Feb. 2006): 267.

 

 

So even though you are doing excellent training on abuse and domestic violence, I hope you see why much of this is negated by your public online official divorce policy. It is UNSAFE.

 

Please consider changing your official written divorce policy online. Divorce is not evidence of moral decay; tolerating abusive marriage is.

 

 

Are you going through a life-saving divorce and need support and clarity? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 4 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians, The Life-Saving Divorce: Paperback: https://amzn.to/3cF1j25  Or eBook: https://amzn.to/3CCBsnr

Also, sign up for my email list below or HERE www.lifesavingdivorce.com/courage

 

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